The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says its policy on the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry hasn’t changed, despite comments to the contrary by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Vilsack reportedly said that USDA would like to see antibiotics used in the context of disease control and disease response, and that the agency is working with veterinarians and land-grant universities to ensure antibiotics are used more judiciously.

But Liz Wagstrom, DVM, chief veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council, says pork producers are already moving in that direction to more responsibly and judiciously use antibiotics in their operations.

“When you look at the Pork Quality Assurance Plus and the We Care programs, pork producers have absolutely been at the forefront of responsible use of antibiotics, including having veterinary involvement in all decision-making,” she says. “Secondly, we always have said that the reason that we believe that growth promotion and disease-prevention antibiotics work is because they are doing just that – preventing diseases. A lot of producers use them postweaning when pigs are most likely to be stressed or exposed to disease.”

“It just makes good economic sense to reevaluate all uses of antibiotics as every producer is looking at ways to minimize inputs, but still take good care of their animals and provide a good product for consumers,” Wagstrom says.